Ducking a Bass with the Kick Drum | #mixing

Before saying bad things about me, and “why the hell would you do this for”, give me a chance. I promise this will make sense. So let’s start.

One of the most challenging things on mixing is getting the bottom and right. It’s easy to make it too thin or too muddy. A delicate mixing the lower end of a song is getting the kick drum and kick-drum1bass to sound right together. If they keep fighting each other on the mix, it’s almost certain that your song will not sound good.

Although equalization and compression tweaks do a great part of the job, sometimes they aren’t enough. Specially when the drum and bass are not in effect sync, and editing is not an option (because it gives too much of a “perfect feel”, or maybe it’s just not useful enough). In those cases I use a little trick that I learned at SAE, from my amazing professor Michael White: ducking the bass with the kick drum.

It’s pretty simple to do: you open a compressor on the bass track. At the sidechain option, you choose the kick drum (KD) track as the input. What that means? That the compressor is now being activated by the KD, and not the bass anymore. So, when te KD surpasses the threshold, the compressor act on the bass. You shouldn’t compress too much the bass, just a couple of dBs. The attack and release depends on the bass you have recorded, but usually are both medium/fast, so the compressor just cuts the bass attack.

And, “why the hell would you do that for”, you ask me. Well, sometimes, the bass attack is interfering on the KD attack, and that millisecond difference that both attack happen makes them sound muddy and a lot more “confusing”. Its pure physics: when a KD attacks, the loudspeaker diaphragm moves outward and inward. When the bass attacks, it does that too. To, if both are not completely on sync, it makes the loudspeaker movente “confused”… it doesn’t complete its movement the way it should, because another attack came milliseconds after the first one, and interfered with it.

And, between both attacks, the KD one is much more important. The bass has the hole note to make its job, but the KD primarily depends on it’s attack to sound the way it’s intended. So it’s a goo way of preserving the KD attack and not interfering with the hole bass track volume or compression.

Well, hope this can help you achieve better mixes. Any suggestions, questions or criticism, please, feel free to write!

See you all soon 😉

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